The Composite Material Technologies Research Group, at Montana State University - Bozeman (MSU), was established in the Fall of 1989 by Dr. John Mandell (now retired). The current mission of group is to further the knowledge, technology, and education required to understand composite materials, their fracture, and fatigue properties for structural applications and processes to improve manufacturing methods. The information collected is intended for use in the wind turbine blade industry, aerospace industry, and other structural durability and damage tolerance applications.
Polymer resin based composite materials consist of a fiber reinforcement encased in a matrix. Common fiber materials are glass and carbon, while, typical matrices are polyester, vinyl ester and epoxy. Once predominately used in non-structural applications, the limits of composite materials are now being driven towards more complicated geometries and critical structures. Their high strength and stiffness to weight ratio make them ideal materials for use in the aerospace industry, where they are replacing metallic materials in component and structural applications. Composites are also unique in their ability to be tailored for different properties using various fiber reinforcement configurations, matrix materials, and manufacturing processes.
The research conducted at MSU is based on the goal of improving composites structures and materials. The information collected is intended for use in the wind turbine blade industry, aerospace industry and other structural and fatigue critical applications. Fatigue data gathered at MSU is used conjunction with the DOE/MSU Composite Materials Fatigue Database. Students and faculty from various disciplines work together in teams to research parameters that effect the design and analysis of composite materials and structures. Parameters explored are reinforcement fabric architecture, complex geometries (wind turbine blades and sandwich panels), buckling, fatigue, FEA analysis, fiber content, ply angles, matrix material, and manufacturing techniques (Infusion, Resin Transfer Molding (RTM), Vacuum bagging, Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VARTM), Prepregs, and Hand lay-up).
To accomplish this goal we integrate scientists and engineers from MSU, along with private industry and government laboratories to address various research areas and problems.